Marcin Dąbrowski, together with Karel Van den Berghe, Aksel Ersoy, Ellen Van Bueren (TU Delft), Frank van Oort (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Joanna Williams (University College London) are organising a series of special sessions as part of the Regional Studies Association Global E-Festival “Regions in Recovery”. This online conference takes place over 16 days between 2 and 18 June 2021. The sessions focus on the often neglected spatial, social and institutional aspects of circular economy transitions in cities and regions. If you do you research on those topics and want to take part in the debate on how to bridge those knowledge gaps, please consider proposing your abstract to one of these sessions.

Click here to submit an abstract to one of the special sessions  (please choose the session from the Gateway Theme during the submission process). Abstract submission deadline – 17th March 2021.

More details on the sessions can be found below.

If you want hear a quick (15 minutes) introduction to Circular Economy as a critical and as yet overlooked issue for regional studies and for the future of cities and regions, have a look here (from 39:55):

SS1: The role of space in the transition towards the circular economy (#RSA_CircularEconomy)

Session organisers: Karel Van den Berghe, Aksel Ersoy, Marcin Dabrowski and Ellen Van Bueren, Delft University of Technology, TheNetherlands; Frank van Oort, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Joanna Williams, University College London, UK

This open-paper session is part of a series of sessions focussing on the Circular Economy (CE). The CE poses an increasing challenge for spatial researchers, from analysing (what, where), monitoring (performance) to pro-actively policy-making (cf. EU Green Deal and many national policy programs). This session invites papers that focus in particular on the role of space in the transition towards the CE. It is presumed that in the CE locations and geography will play a more crucial role. Already today we see that in many research papers and policy documents the focus is shifting away from global flows to regional and local flows of materials and products, in order to extend the life-cycle of products and reduce waste generation and consumption of resources. Regions and cities play a key role in this transition towards CE, and already today we see that at those scales the majority of circular innovations emerge. It also in regions and cities that action can best be taken to explore the flows of materials and propose new policies and strategies to close material loops and connect the relevant industrial, institutional and social stakeholders. Nevertheless, the vast majority of CE innovations focusses on Recycling, and fail to have higher impact that deal with Repair, Reuse, Reduce and Rethink. An explanation that circular innovations have difficulties to achieve higher impact, is that the technical aspects dominate innovation, without connecting these to socioeconomic, spatial and institutional aspects, which are especially relevant for higher R-level innovations. In particular, it is not fully understood what constrains or enables the type and impact of innovations to develop in and beyond particular places. Therefore, this session invites contributions that use space as a lens to study CE and contribute to debates on circularity. We welcome empirical, conceptual as theoretical papers. Topics include (but are not limited to):

– the mobility of labour and knowledge (cf. circular skills, circular jobs);

– circular economy as driver for industrial policy;

– (critical) reflections on (circularity) discourses (from green to circular washing?);

– the role of circular economy for regional policy and competitiveness;

– emergence of circular economy clusters;

– material and/or non-material network analyses on circular economy activities in regions and cities;

– spatial needs and consequences of a transition to circular economy;

– the challenges of transitioning towards circular economy;

– planning approaches and tools for circular transitions;

– the (ontological) positioning of nature versus/and society;

– the (mis)match between (economic, institutional, cultural, social) scales (e.g. local vs global processes);

– The role of human behaviour in the (non)success of CE innovations.


SS2. Circular economy transitions in cities and regions: exploring spatial, social and governance tensions (#RSA_CircularEconomy)

Session organisers: Marcin Dabrowski, Karel Van den Berghe, Aksel Ersoy, Ellen Van Bueren, Delft University of Technology, TheNetherlands and Frank van Oort, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

This open-paper session is part of a series of sessions focussing on the Circular Economy (CE). CE has rapidly emerged as a priority on the agendas and strategies of cities around the world and is a central tenet in the European Green Deal. However, the concept remains ill-defined and there is a gap in knowledge on how cities can facilitate a CE transition that is just and inclusive and what this entails. Current policies and research overlook three critical, but interconnected aspects of CE transitions (1) First, CE is seldom considered from a territorial perspective. This is problematic not only because we may overlook potentials for harnessing CE to improve spatial quality and design more sustainable and liveable cities, but also because the transition away from linear economy entails complex spatial challenges which cannot be ignored (see e.g. Williams, 2019). For instance, circular processes require preserving industrial spaces for recycling or remanufacturing with appropriate buffer zones, which goes against the current plans in many cities for redevelopment of industrial areas into mixed-use areas. (2) The second neglected aspect of urban CE transitions is social. Thus, we need to explore (a) who and which spaces are affected by the negative externalities of circular activities (e.g. noise, odours, decline of certain industries); and (b) how to use the new opportunities stemming from CE transition to improve the quality of life, improve life chances and social cohesion, create jobs, bring back (re)manufacturing to cities, revalorise industrial skills, and promote social reinsertion of the marginalised social groups from deprived urban areas (see Moreau et al., 2017Croxford et al., 2020). (3) Third, to develop place-sensitive CE strategies and harness their potential to produce positive spatial social change, we need to rethink the current governance of territory and spatial planning practices towards more open, inclusive and adaptive decision-making. Given the complexity and novelty of CE, the conflicting pressures on land development and the path dependencies related to linear economy, this is a tremendous challenge (see Marin & De Meulder, 2018Obersteg et al., 2019). We lack templates and insight into how to overcome these governance problems and how to harness the potential of co-creative approaches to achieve this. Against this background, the session will explore the spatial, social and governance tensions that urban and regional circular strategies bring.   This session invites contributions that explore these tensions. We welcome empirical, conceptual as theoretical papers. Topics include (but are not limited to):

– Conceptual and theoretical perspectives on the nexus between CE, spatial development and governance;

– Spatial planning and CE; The spatial conflicts that closing material loops and shifting towards circular industries entail;

– Towards circular built environment;

– Geographies of material flows;

– Citizen engagement in regional and urban CE strategies;

– Circular jobs and circular skills;

– Governance of regional and urban circular economy policies;

– CE transition management; The potentials of CE to foster social inclusion;

– Synergies between CE and urban regeneration;

– CE in cities and regions in the Global South;

– Path dependencies in shifting towards CE;

– Citizen attitudes towards circular economy, negative externalities and NIMBYism.

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